Have a Dawn Picnic Along a Sleeping Bear Dunes Trail

In the early hours of a spring morning, take a short hike and savor a private breakfast with one of the best views Northern Michigan has to offer. No reservation required.

Embrace the changing seasons and embark on an early morning hike at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Pack some pastries and a thermos of coffee for a simple pre-dawn picnic.

While any overlook within the National Lakeshore is an ideal locale for a sunup snack, the jarring drops along the Lake Michigan shoreline hold a certain inimitable mystique. One of the most secluded and scenic is Tweddle/Treat Farm (colloquially known as Stormer Barn). The trail to the farm and overlook sits just off Norconk Road, south of Empire.

The site was originally homesteaded by John Tweddle in the 1840s until the lot was purchased in 1912 by Charles and Martha Treat, who continued to farm the land. Charles Treat was also an engineer, experimenting particularly with concrete structures and design. You’ll see some of his creations on your hike, including the home garage.

The trail (2 miles roundtrip) is a blissful walk through maple and beech hardwoods before it opens up to a wide clearing where Treat Farm is tucked. The path skirts around a field and sweeps up the backside of a dune emerging on a wide bluff. Stick to the established trails that meander along the ridgetop.

When you reach the top, pour a steaming cup of coffee from your thermos and enjoy a quiet moment with an unforgettable view.

Picnic Provisions
  • Pick up pastries from 9 Bean Rows near Suttons Bay (I’m partial to the almond croissant!). While a good cup of Joe is not hard to come by in Northern Michigan, High Road Roast from Truck Stop Organics in Traverse City is an excellent morning pick-me-up.
  • Even if it feels like spring, mornings on a high bluff will undoubtedly be brisk. Dress in layers. A throw blanket is also a must-have for the picnic portion of your trip.
  • Be sure to have a park pass displayed in your vehicle before you hit the trail.

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